Faith Lutheran College, Plainland Queensland, has been recognised as one of the best non-government schools in Australia, after being included as one of the finalists in the Australian Education Awards in the ‘Secondary School of the Year – Non-government’ category.
The announcement, which places Faith Lutheran College on the shortlist for the award to be announced in August, recognises schools that demonstrate consistently high standards of teaching and learning and a commitment to innovation and continuous improvement, as well as acknowledging the academic success and extra-curricular achievements attained by students throughout the school year.
Open to all non-government schools across Australia, Faith’s nomination came largely on the back of a philosophical change in direction towards student empowerment, soft-skill development and student wellbeing. Known to the college community as ‘Wellbeing on Wednesday’, the initiative, which has only been in operation since the commencement of the 2021 school year, emphasises the holistic development of students – devoting a full day of weekly campus life to learning and personal development activities that fall outside of formal teaching and learning and standardised curriculum.
This approach, which represents a first-of-kind commitment to student engagement and wellbeing, has yielded positive results, allowing students to pursue self-directed passion projects, participate in activities that focus on physical, mental and emotional health, and explore community-focused service opportunities to broaden future pathways.
Commenting on the initial success of the program, Deputy Director of Learning Communities Mr Reid Dobson has observed that teaching staff are also reporting improvements in more traditional classroom settings:
‘Through the [Wednesday] program, students are developing skills in problem-solving, creativity, communication, collaboration, leadership, resilience, and compassion – essential skills that are core to lifelong learning. Providing an opportunity to focus on the development of these skills, and for students to play a more active role in their own learning, has increased student engagement across the board, and fosters an enthusiasm that carries into other learning areas throughout the week.’
The program, which also includes provision for students to pursue ‘passion projects’ through mentor-style relationships with industry experts and members of the college community has engaged students in an alternative style of learning and encourages learning habits that more closely resemble the learning that occurs in a post-school setting. With students energised and motivated to engage in learning activity due to their own personal interest and agency in the subject matter, the development of soft-skills that self-directed learning requires has yielded improvements in overall outcomes as students translate these skills into more conventional classes on the remaining days of the week.
The improvement both in and out of the classroom has been the primary catalyst for Faith’s inclusion as a finalist in the Australian Education Awards – an award that Principal Doug Braiden believes the college has every chance of winning.
‘What we are doing at Faith [Lutheran College] is innovative, and completely student-focused. Our willingness to try something different, and the volume of positive feedback we are receiving from both staff and students, has really begun to set us apart. Being recognised as a finalist in a national award is an extension of the positive change that is occurring here. When you prioritise student agency and student voice, and you provide each learner with an opportunity to shape their own learning, education changes for the better – and we are on a mission to champion that sort of change.’
Among the finalists, which include fellow Queensland institutions St. Joseph’s Nudgee College, Ormiston College and St. Margaret’s Anglican Girls School, Faith Lutheran College is one of only two colleges to be classified as ‘rural’, making the honour a testament to the college’s willingness to innovate and commitment to reflecting the educational needs of the surrounding community.
‘For a rural, low-fee school to be identified as a leader in educational innovation and contemporary learning is a testament to our teaching and learning staff. The willingness to take positive risks; to try something new and be determined to see it succeed is commendable – and it is great to see that be recognised and rewarded at a national level.’
Faith Lutheran College is currently preparing its submission for the second phase of judging, with the winning school to be announced in a ceremony in Sydney on Friday 27 August.